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Oliver E Overseth
LSA Minutes

Oliver Overseth

Professor Emeritus Oliver Overseth, 80, passed away on July 17, 2008 at home in Key West, Florida. He received his B.S. from the University of Chicago in 1952 and his Ph.D. from Brown University in 1958. Following a period as an Instructor and Research Associate at Princeton University, he joined the University of Michigan faculty in 1961.

Professor Overseth was an experimental high-energy physicist and initially studied proton polarization and other strong interaction processes at the Brookhaven Cosmotron. His primary research interest then turned to hyperons, elementary particles which contain the strange quark. He and his Princeton colleague James Cronin performed a classic spark-chamber experiment to measure the decay parameters of Λ→pπ-. Professor Overseth continued to study properties of hyperons at the Princeton-Penn Accelerator, and in 1969 he authored a Scientific American article, Experiments in Time Reversal. Professor Overseth then joined Tom Devlin and Lee Pondrom to initiate a celebrated series of experiments at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (FNAL), the first of which, E8, discovered the sizable polarization of inclusively-produced hyperons at 300 GeV/c. This was then used to make precise measurements of the magnetic moments of all hyperons from the Λ to the Ω-. Subsequently, he continued his research on hyperons at the European Laboratory for Particle Physics (CERN) in Geneva, Switzerland.

At the University of Michigan, Professor Overseth chaired the doctoral thesis committees of twelve students, served on many College and University committees, and was a highly-regarded lecturer. He was an early pioneer in teaching a special physics class for future elementary school teachers at Michigan in 1973, being one of the first to recognize such a need.

Besides his physics talents, Professor Overseth enjoyed sports cars, jazz, and W.C. Fields. He was brimful of amusing anecdotes both in physics and everyday life, and would go out of his way to make anyone feel at ease. He took a keen interest in teaching at all levels, where he demonstrated a special ability, especially in the large lecture courses. He was a great friend to his students and took an interest in their personal as well as their professional lives.

Following his retirement in 1992, he lived in Geneva, Switzerland, later acquiring a winter home in Key West. His first wife, Anneke de Bruyn Overseth had served in the administration of the UM Business School before her death in 1997. Professor Overseth is survived by his two daughters, Alison Overseth and Tenley LeSann, five grandchildren, and his second wife, Ludy van Bruggen Overseth.

--Professor Emeritus Lawrence W. Jones, Department of Physics